Friday, February 11, 2011

52 weeks of organizing

Last week I jumped into the 52 Weeks of Organizing challenge over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  I had planned to go through my messy fabric stash and consolidate three bins of fabric and supplies into two.

I was mostly successful.  I sewed two items this week:  a purse and a skirt, both for my daughter.  I started a flannel nightshirt for her too.  And we are going through a huge pile of our favorite summer fabric, Tutti-Frutti, to decide what will become summer garments and what will be part of a patchwork picnic blanket.

Yes, we do have a lot of this fabric.

These are just scraps from garments already made. Every piece of this fabric holds a memory.

I also discarded a bunch of patterns and some ratty old quilt batting that had gotten dirty somehow.  We tried to rid ourselves of some fabric but we are pretty careful to buy only what we really like, so we couldn't part with any of it. 

So, I still have work to do but it's mostly pleasant work  now:  sewing!  Turning this fabric into something useful and lovely.  Tough job but someone's got to do it.

This week's theme is negative conversation.  I have negative conversations with myself all the time.  It's easy to do when there is fabric all over the floor in one room, camping equipment that needs to be put away in another room, and about 32 wet towels on the floor from the dog-washing adventure.  When I start the negative talk I stop and pray.  That usually fixes it for me. What about you? 

L:ink up or read more at I'm an Organizing Junkie.
It's been a little hectic around here.  Lots of people in my life are in need of help and attention right now. My own family here at home.  A friend from church who needs babysitting help.  Emails and phone calls with various people on various topics.  Some of it is fun and some of it is obligation.  Talking to a friend about her upcoming trip to Hawaii is in the fun column, not the obligation column.  But there are others, not so fun.

Almost two years ago I sat here and complained about the lack of available women to help their church family by providing meals to others in need.  That problem hasn't gone away.  There is a lot of work to do and people don't have much time to do it.  So those of us who are available try to do as much as we can.

Sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes when a need comes up and I think about trying to squeeze it into my day, I say inside my head, in a very small voice, "but I have a job too."  Most people don't see homeschooling as a job.  It's a lifestyle choice (and an odd one at that) and shouldn't affect my ability to be out of the house for hours at a time.

And sometimes it doesn't.  My kids are old enough to stay at home alone; they can do some of their work on their own.  I can leave them to their math books and Latin translations and other assignments.  Mostly those things can get done when I'm not home. But that's now how we like to spend most of our homeschooling day.  We want to be together, reading and talking; sometimes they need my help.  Sometimes they need my nagging.

One of the dangers of being among the few that can help is the tendency to look at others who aren't helping with bitterness and resentment.  We can decide that the stay-home mom with a preschooler and toddler ought to be able to help out some too.  What does she do all day?  We can look at another homeschooler and wonder why her kids can't be more independent.  It doesn't matter that we don't know much about her, such as what kind of homeschooling program or philosophy she has, or the ability of her children to stay home alone, or how much help they need with their work. We look at these people and think:  I can do this; why can't she?  My life is busy too.  Busier, even. What's wrong with her?

Because there must be something wrong with her if she's not doing what I do.

It's easy to look at other people and decide that they are lacking.  Harder to look at ourselves and see the pride that makes us judge others by our standards.

Whose standards are we supposed to live by, anyway?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Can I get organized in 52 weeks?

Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie has started a new blog series:  52 Weeks of Organizing.  She's encouraging her readers to make a list of project to complete this year, and share their stories. As usual I am late to the party and am starting on week 5, wherein she asks:

Last year I had started documenting my efforts to clean up the house, and keep it clean, but I got a little bored with that process - the documentation, not the trying to clean and organize.  But maybe I'll start again because the documenting does help with motivation. 

There are so many reasons to get organized.  I can't think of which one is most important.  Is it the time lost looking for things?  Is it the money spent unnecessarily re-buying something that I misplaced? Is it because we might move this summer after the seminarian graduates?  Or is it because I would like my kids not to live in chaos now and pass on the chaos-living to their own families?  

Well, all of them.  

This week I am going to concentrate on my sewing supplies.  I have three large bins full of fabric, patterns, notion and such.  Earlier this week I had to dump one out so I could use the bin for a more urgent purpose: storing birdseed. We had this big bag of birdseed in the laundry room and discovered a hole and other evidence of a critter.  Better storage was needed, quickly.

Rather than go out and buy a new bin I want to organize the fabric, get rid of stuff we're never going to use, and maybe do some sewing to reduce the stash.  Should be a nice project.

You can join in the 52 Weeks of Organizing at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Hurry, there's only 48 weeks left!

A book to read when you think your life is hard.

Last Friday my dryer died.  Right in the middle of a load.   The seminarian is pretty handy but he couldn't fix it.  He found the instruction manual and did all the trouble-shooting stuff but nothing worked.  He said that it seemed the dryer, which came with the house we moved into 4 years ago, must be about 20 years old.  So it was dead.

I was without a dryer for 4 days.  Can you imagine?  Dirty laundry piling up. The prospect of going to the laundromat.  Ugh!  What a terrible thing to happen.

During those four days that I wasn't doing laundry, I had a little extra time for reading.  I started a new novel, and I read about a man preparing to venture into the streets of Sarajevo during the siege to find water for his family:
He sits at the table and inspects each of the six plastic containers he'll take with him.  He checks for any obvious cracks that may have developed since they were last emptied, makes sure each one has the correct lid.  He has two backup containers he can substitute if he finds any faults.  Deciding how much water you can carry has become something of an art in this city.  Carry too little and you'll have to repeat the task more often. Each time you expose yourself to the dangers of the streets you run the risk of injury or death.  But carry too much and you lose the ability to run, duck, dive, anything it takes to get out of danger's way. 
During his trek to get the water, he faces the possibility of being cut down by a sniper's bullet or killed in a mortar attack.  The trip to get water takes hours.   And he has to do it every few days.

We decided to take a chance on Craigslist - something we'd never done before - and found a dryer the next morning.  It was in place and humming away a mere 4 days after the old dryer died.

Wednesday was piano lesson day.  Our teacher lives just over the city line in Philadelphia.  It's not the suburbs anymore, and the streets were a mess.  She has only street parking and there was a lot of snow on the ground.  People shovel out their own parking spaces and mark them with chairs or construction cones to keep interlopers away.  The streets are narrow because of all the snow piled up.  The plows push it to the sides of the road, but they don't remove it.  I couldn't park, so I had to let Eleanor out of the car in front of the teacher's apartment and watch her stumble through the snow-covered walk up to the door, ring the bell, and wait for the teacher to let her in, all while hoping no one would need to get past me on the street.  Then I went to find a place to park till her lesson was over.

While I waited for her in the Walmart parking lot, I read some more.
The trains don't run anymore. The streets are full of debris, boxcars and concrete piled at intersections in an attempt to foil the snipers on the hills.  To go outside is to accept the possibility that you will be killed.
Sometimes our lives are inconvenient and we mistakenly think they are hard.  That's one of the reasons I read books like The Cellist of Sarajevo. They remind me that my life is so very easy, always.

There really was a cellist of Sarajevo, Vedran Smailovic, and though the novel is named for him, he is a minor character, a focal point.  During the siege he saw 22 of his neighbors killed by a mortar attack.  In response, he sat at that spot each day for 22 days and played his cello. (You can read about his unhappiness with the book and his role in it here.)

The story - three separate stories, really - follow three other people throughout a day, or several days.  The chapters alternate, each telling a part of the story of one person.  It is not perfectly linear in the telling, but it won't matter once you start reading the book. 

Kenan is the family man who struggles to get water.  Dragan is alone; his family left the city but he has work at a bakery so he stayed behind.  Arrow is a young woman, a soldier and sniper who targets the "men in the hills," the men who make it dangerous to cross a street.  There are other characters whose lives we glimpse as they go about their day.  

It is a beautifully written book, and hard to set aside.  I found myself slipping away from my daily tasks to read one more chapter.  It's a difficult book, though, because it doesn't flinch from the violence.  People die while crossing a street, cut down by snipers.  People don't behave the way we think they should.  The way we are sure we would behave in similar circumstances.   But it will also show you that people can retain their humanity even under the worst conditions imaginable.

Read this when you feel that your life is hard.

Linking up with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011